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Scoliosis

For Children > Physiotherapy > Conditions > Scoliosis

What is Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis? 

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) refers to scoliosis that occurs in late childhood or adolescence. 

It is a 3-dimensional deformity of the spine occurring in healthy pubertal children and is the most common spinal deformity. The age of onset is usually between 10 – 18 years of age and is known to affect females more than males. A spinal curve more than 10 degrees with a rotational component is considered a scoliosis. 

How do I know if my child has scoliosis? 

A scoliosis more than 15 degrees will usually display visible postural changes such as:

  • Difference in height of shoulder (one shoulder can be higher) 
  • Apparent Leg length discrepancy where one leg may appear longer than the other
  • A shift of the body to one side may also occur
  • Waistline asymmetry in which one hip appears to be higher than the other
  • There may also be a bony prominence on the lower back or at the ribs secondary to the rotational aspect of scoliosis

How does scoliosis affect a young person?

At small angles, scoliosis is primarily a cosmetic issue and this can potentially have a psychological impact on the child. 

As the child grows, there may be far-reaching health issues into adulthood if the scoliosis exceeds a certain angle and is left untreated, such as:

  • Increased spinal curvature and cosmetic deformity
  • Development of back pain with decreased quality of life as a secondary consequence
  • There can be muscle imbalances in the spine due to its curvature. Often, the back and lower limb muscles are weaker or tighter on one side more than the other. This may affect a child’s ability to participate or excel in sporting activity.
  • In some rare cases, a person with severe scoliosis may also develop heart or breathing issues due to the distortion and increased stiffness of the rib cage. This only happens at much larger angles . 

What are the treatment options available?

Depending on the individual case and severity of the curve, scoliosis treatment includes:

  • Observation of the curve using physical assessments and xrays
  • Exercises: Scoliosis-specific exercises is an evidence-based treatment which can be initiated from 15 degrees onwards
  • Bracing: Rigid bracing is the most effective treatment for scoliosis more than 20 degrees 
  • Surgery: This is only for curves that meet surgical criteria, usually above 45 – 50 degrees 

Treatment is prescribed depending on the risk of progression of the spinal curvature. This is associated with potential growth in the child or adolescent as scoliosis tends to progress with periods when there is a rapid or significant change in height. Medical specialists managing patients with scoliosis will need to monitor the spinal curves regularly to ensure it does not progress into a large curve. During growth periods, monitoring is usually done very 3-6 months, depending on skeletal maturity. 

How can a physiotherapist help?

A trained physiotherapist can prescribe appropriate and customized exercises depending on the severity of the scoliosis and the risk of progression. 

Physiotherapy management can include one or more of the following:

  • Physiotherapy Scoliosis Specific Exercise (Schroth)
  • Posture awareness
  • Pain management and Stretching or Strengthening exercises 
  • Activity recommendations
  • A physiotherapist can also discuss the bracing options available
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation post spinal surgery 

Our physiotherapist at the Women & Children Centre by Physio & Sole is Schroth BSPTS (Barcelona Scoliosis Physical Therapy School) Level C1 & C2 Certified and can treat scoliosis in all age groups. Feel free to contact us. Our physiotherapists will be ready to assist you.

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